In their new book How to Love, comic artist Alex Norris changes hearts and minds

Navigating queer relationships, singlehood and being friends with an ex, Alex Norris’ lively characters help answer all the big questions.

2 November 2023


The introductory comic in Alex Norris’ new book How to Love, follows a character as they quickly fall in love and become transformed, before swiftly meeting heartbreak. They reach out for the answers to a question that many of us have been riddled with, how do you get over it? Then, a book – this book – appears out of the ether offering a guide to navigating the ebbs and flows of relationships. But it’s not just any self-help book proclaiming to have you cured of all negative emotions and all figured out by the time you hit the last page, it’s an accessible guide that will also shake your ideals of love, relationship structures and intimacy.

How to Love began as a webcomic series in 2015, as a sort of Q&A between Alex and their readers. “I would answer them in comic form. I just really wanted to be an agony aunt,” they tell us. “Since the series ended [after 100 episodes almost a year later], I have had much more life experience, and wanted to revisit it in a way that questioned the fundamentals of how we build relationships and think about our needs and desires,” they add. Now refreshing the agony aunt medium, because they like “ideas that are traditionally quite trashy,” they present relatable situations that readers can apply to their own lives.

Throughout the book, relatable jokes, inflated scenes and visual metaphors guide us through some of the most universal scenarios, widening the perspective on questions Alex has been asked by readers in the past. In a section named “can I be friends with my ex?” characters make a right old mess while trying to bake the perfect cake together, before realising that they need completely different ingredients. In another scene, one partner builds a castle around the other to try and protect the relationship. “I wanted to present the sorts of ideas you read in philosophy of love books, with some nice reassurance for any reader who is struggling.”

GalleryAlex Norris: How to Love (Copyright © Alex Norris, 2023)

Alex splits their topics into four sections – All By Myself, A Million Feelings, Together, and Ever After, respectively – and a number of subsections, of equal length, that not only tackle numerous questions, but subvert the norm. First reminding us of Eric Carmen’s (and Celine Dion’s) power ballad, All By Myself masterfully leans into the common tropes around singlehood, before providing us with a plethora of options, because yes, some long for romantic relationships, and others are just fine alone. Every section of the book has this same verve, nestled with ideas, jokes and concise answers. It surely takes us on a ride, but along the way we are provided with not only answers to the questions we come with, but answers as to why we had these questions in the first place. “I wanted to help readers question what they actually want, rather than simply going along with what they think they should want,” Alex tells us. “How to Love is actually saying that you couldn’t make a guide that tells you how to love,” they add.

All in all, How to Love is a book that we can get through in one sitting, but it is also one to be revisited as you grow and recover yourself. The flat, bold and fun comics, filled with endearing anthropomorphic characters, are a testament to Alex’s desire to offer accessible and universal notions of loving and living. “The characters are very simple, so that people can more easily identify with them [...] vampires, witches, mermaids, they all transcend gender in a way. It makes it easier to understand the visual metaphors.” Currently taking the time to “nurture this book,” now that it’s out in the world, they see their future being filled with longer-form comics, graphic novels and short stories, and we wait for more answers to our questions, and the ones we didn’t even know we had.

How to Love is published by Walker Books, you can get a copy here.

GalleryAlex Norris: How to Love (Copyright © Alex Norris, 2023)

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Alex Norris: How to Love (Copyright © Alex Norris, 2023)

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About the Author

Yaya Azariah Clarke

Yaya (they/them) was previously a staff writer at It’s Nice That. With a particular interest in Black visual culture, they have previously written for publications such as WePresent, alongside work as a researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.

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